ten best!: Triad’s Best Comic book store

by Gus Lubin

Acme Comics

2150 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro; 336.574.2263; The somewhat famed Acme Comics is the oldest and largest comic book store in the Triad, at 25 years old and over 50,000 issues. Both of those figures give Acme clout in the comics world. The store maintains an active website with a weekly comics blog and occasional interviews with stars of the comic book world, like Avengers writer Brian Michael Bendis. Online and in store, Acme offers the best feature of fandom: community. Of course, it also offers Spawn t-shirts, Transformers action figures and Wonder Woman posters.

Ssalefish Comics

3242 Silas Creek Pkwy, Winston-Salem; 336.499.3910; Last week Jordan was hard-pressed to find 10 record stores in the Triad. Comic book stores have likewise dwindled; although many readers may be surprised to learn that these cult-niche stores existed at all. One of the best is Ssalefish Comics in Winston- Salem. The three-year-old store features a small front section jammed with racks of new issues and graphic novels, plus a smaller back section of boxed collector issues. When I stopped by, the store was buzzing from a recent visit by Spiderman star Rosemary Harris and the sellout run of a Spiderman comic with Obama on the cover. Ssalefish also enjoys a growing set of patrons — mostly men over 25 — and rising sales. Said owner Bret Parks: “Honestly, I just know how the business works. That’s my superpower, I guess.”

Classic Comics

169 Lowes Foods Drive, Lewisville; 336.945.0883 Next to Lowes Food in Lewisville, beneath an understated sign — ”comics” — there lies a dense haven of fantasy worlds. Classic Comics contains thousands of comic books in a space little bigger than a dorm room. The collection is divided into brand new comics by the door, recent comics along one wall and old comics packed into boxes. On the front of each box there is taped (and sealed and backed) a recommendation from the box’s contents; a box of X-Men comics, for instance, is fronted by a 1991 issue with a cool cover of Storm, Jean Grey and Colossus. The store is also stocked with a solid collection of old and new action figures. Catering to rural tastes, Classic sells NASCAR comics and wrestling comics. According to employee Michael Tesh, they also sell an inexplicable number of comics about supernatural cop-babe Witchblade.

Empire Comics

12201 N. NC Highway 150, Winston-Salem; 336.764.1807; Empire Comics lacks the clutter of most comic book stores. Except for a few dozen boxes of old issues, recent comics are the main display, lined across the wall like movies at Blockbuster Video. In the spacious store there are even tables — at which one might (I didn’t) dare to read comics. In other words, it’s a friendly atmosphere for non-fanboys. But to credit the dork legitimacy of Empire Comics, those tables are used for Magic the Gathering on Fridays and Dungeons & Dragons on Saturdays. As for the comics, their new section is good and the old section worth browsing. Highlights include bundles of consecutive issues and the super-discounted “Mystery Box” of 20 comics for $5.

K&S News

1201 Silas Creek Parkway, Winston-Salem; 336.724.7537; 2505 Lewisville Clemmons Road, Clemmons; 336.766.5672 There used to be a K&S News on Peacehaven Road where as a kid I would read 10 comics in a sitting, then maybe buy one or two out of guilt. The store specialized in magazine and book sales, which made for a relaxing setting for comic book browsers like myself. But then K&S closed (my fault?), and the remaining franchises are not as good for comics. At the Silas Creek K&S News, a paltry selection of two-month-old comic books is locked behind plexiglass. According to the cashier, the protection is due to problems with comic-book theft.


252 S. Stratford Road, Winston-Salem; 336.727.8834; 3605 High Point Road, Greensboro; 336.218.0662; Behemoth competitor of bookshops, coffee shops and record shops, Borders also stocks comic books and graphic novels. Their selection isn’t great, but you can get away with browsing everything they have. Only at Borders can you plod through a whole stack of comics with nary a twinge of guilt. Anyway, collectors avoid buying these bent and earmarked issues. Comic books are also sold at some Barnes & Nobles.

Edward McKay Used Books and More

115 Oakwood Drive, Winston-Salem; 336.725.6133; 1607 Battleground Ave., Greensboro; 336.274.4448 Used bookstore Edward McKay sells no new comic books, but rather a good selection of used graphic novels. In addition to the usual smattering of recent Marvel and DC trade paperbacks, the 500 or so on display included old books like X- Men: The Danger Room Battle Archives and alternative publications (which, in the case of comics, refer to comics books without capes) like Iraq war story Pride of Baghdad. Edward McKay also sells anime books for $1-2.

Stormcrow Comics

11234 N. Main St., Archdale; 336.434.0081 Ever heard of the comic book crash? Overproduction in the early ’90s, at which time there were five or six series devoted to Spiderman alone, as well as crossover epics, trading cards and ads all over the cereal aisle, led to the near-bankruptcy of chief publishers Marvel and DC. Series were cut, sales dropped and many stores closed. Since 2000, however, the comic industry has made steady gains. That’s why Stormcrow owner Mark Merrill is optimistic about the future of his 1-year-old store. “The comic industry is pretty healthy right now,” Merrill said. “It’s become more of a reader-driven market, forcing publishers to put out entertaining reads.” Even during the recession: “We’ve probably done better than some businesses in the times we’ve had because we sell an affordable means of entertainment.”

Home of the Parts Unknown Comicon, Parts Unknown is legendary fixture of the Triad comic scene. The store was founded in 1989 by collector and fanboy John Hitchcock. By attending national conventions and writing letters, Hitchcock got to know comics legends like Will Eisner, Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, many of whom he brought to events at Parts Unknown. The store, which is located near UNCG campus, contains a thorough collection of back issues and memorabilia, including near-mint editions of Amazing Spiderman #3, Uncanny X-Men #2 and early Batman comic, Detective Comics #86.

Outer Limits Comics

121 Pineview Drive, Kernersville; 336.310.0025 Until 2008, Outer Limits Comics was a Players Choice video and video game rental franchise. But after the company’s recent dissolution, the Kernersville location changed their name, first to Silver Bullet then to Outer Limits, and they added comic books. Coowner Mark Jones suggested the name as a tribute to the old Kernersville Outer Limits, a comic book store where he worked as a teenager in the ’80s. The store’s collection is small but growing, same as their local fan base. “Comics were always something I knew,” said Jones. “The opportunity presented itself and it was one of those ‘always wanted to try it’ things, so we did it.”